Alex de Angelis
With Shinya Nakano returning to the fold at Portimao after an injury plagued rookie season in World Superbike, Aprilia Racing will dig deep and field a third bike for newly-crowned British Superbike champion Leon Camier. The ride for Camier is a second audition for a seat on the team after his debut with the squad at Magny Cours showed flashes of promise but was marred by technical difficulties. Nakano, who has had difficulties both with injuries and a self-admitted problem adapting his 250 based style to superbikes, is widely believed to be on his way out of the factory squad.Alex DeAngelis had been linked to the second seat but rumors are increasing that the San Marinan will take a ride with Scot Honda in MotoGP. Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane "Shakey" Byrne is also considered a contender for the Aprilia ride.
As we wrote just yesterday, the question of the 7th Honda on the 2010 MotoGP grid is yet to be settled. That bike is currently being fielded by Scot Honda, with Gabor Talmacsi riding it, but the Hungarian has been circulating at the back now for some time. Though Talmacsi was a latecomer to the series, only making the switch from the 250cc class at Barcelona after falling out with the Balatonring 250cc team earlier in the year, Honda's patience is starting to wear thin. Talmacsi has blamed his poor performance on the lack of an official HRC technician in the garage, as Dovizioso had when he rode the bike, but suspicion has continued to mount that the leap from the 125 class (Talmacsi rode just three races on the Aprilia RSA 250 before leaving the team) to MotoGP is just too large to make in one go.
For some time now, rumors have been emerging that HRC will give the RC212V currently being fielded by Scot Honda to Team LCR instead, expanding the team's presence on the grid from one to two bikes. When asked at Estoril about who would get the 7th Honda, a spokesperson for HRC told MotoMatters.com that no decision had yet been taken, which seemed to imply that support for the Scot Honda project was slipping.
With the announcement at Estoril that Hiroshi Aoyama is to ascend to the MotoGP class aboard a Honda RC212V in a team run by Daniel Epp, the man behind the current Caffe Latte team in the 250 class, the number of Hondas on the grid for 2010 increased from six to seven. The team is to be sponsored in part by the Swiss iced coffee company Caffe Latte, but the effort is also to be heavily supported by Honda. HRC have a long tradition of keeping a Japanese rider in the MotoGP class and were keen to find a replacement for Yuki Takahashi, who was muscled out at Team Scot and replaced by Gabor Talmacsi, the Hungarian bringing a badly-needed injection of funds to the cash-strapped team. With Hiroshi Aoyama edging ever closer to becoming Japan's first World Champion since the much-lamented Daijiro Katoh in 2001, and doing so on board an aging Honda RS250RW, the Japanese rider seems not only the logical choice, but also a highly deserving one.
The Caffe Latte RC212V will be an additional Honda on the grid, but the final line-up for the marque is still not entirely finalized. Honda expect to field seven bikes, and six of them have been settled: The factory Repsol team will see Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso return - though Dovizioso's current crew chief Pete Benson is believed to have been ousted, and is looking for work elsewhere; The San Carlo Gresini team will field the two Marcos, Melandri aboard a factory and Simoncelli riding a satellite spec bike; Randy de Puniet will make a return at LCR Honda, riding the new pseudo-factory satellite spec RC212V; And Aoyama's Caffe Latte bike will make 6.
The MotoGP silly season is just about played out. With four races left in the season, the rider line up for 2010 is almost complete. As expected, once Jorge Lorenzo finally made up his mind, the remaining pieces in the puzzle fell into place, leaving just a few gaps to fill.
All of the factory seats are now full, and largely unchanged, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo back at Yamaha, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa (albeit reluctantly) re-signed with Repsol Honda, and Loris Capirossi joined at Suzuki by the only newcomer to the factory line up, Spanish rookie Alvaro Bautista. Though next year's seats are settled, plenty of excitement still remains over what will happen next year: Everyone but Andrea Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista is on a one year contract, which means that the Fantastic Four will all be on the market at the same time next year and looking to move, almost certainly precipitating a bidding war and making a mockery of all the cost-cutting measures already put in place.
Of the satellite teams, only the Gresini and LCR squads are completely set. Fausto Gresini got his Italian Dream Team with the two Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli, and helping him extend the team's sponsorship contract with snack manufacturer San Carlo, while Lucio Cecchinello has re-upped with Randy de Puniet. But even among the remaining teams, the seats are largely taken. Mika Kallio is back with Pramac, and Colin Edwards returns to the Monster Tech 3 team, though reportedly taking a half million dollar pay cut for the privilege. No official word as yet from Team Scot, but as Gabor Talmacsi is the only person likely to be bringing significant funds into the team, the Hungarian must be a safe bet for that seat.
As in MotoGP, so in World Superbikes. In both series, the Japanese manufacturer is suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to riders, and with the MotoGP factory squad complete, Yamaha Motor Italia, who run the World Superbike squad, are considering their options for 2010. Their problem depends in part on Ben Spies, and whether he stays in World Superbikes or goes to MotoGP with the Tech 3 satellite squad, but even without Spies, the WSBK team has decisions to ponder.
With a glut of outstanding riders on the market, Yamaha's WSBK boss Massimo Meregalli has put out feelers to Alex de Angelis, to test his interest in switching to the World Superbike series. Meregalli told GPOne.com that he had spoken to De Angelis about joining the Superbike squad in 2010. "I spoke with Alex to check his availability," Meregalli said. "Nothing has been decided at the moment, but it's clear that the riders in MotoGP want to stay there, and the market is finished there yet. But De Angelis is an interesting rider."
De Angelis isn't Yamaha's only option, however. Current World Supersport leader and revelation of the series Cal Crutchlow is also considered to be a serious candidate for Yamaha's World Superbike team. The young Briton has a two-year deal with Yamaha, which includes a clause offering him a World Superbike ride if he wins the World Supersport title, as he looks set to do this season. If Spies does decide - and is permitted - to go to MotoGP, then Meregalli's decision-making process will be made a good deal easier, and both De Angelis and Crutchlow could end up on board a Yamaha R1 in 2010.
With the future of Ben Spies now apparently settled - though the English-language journalists continue to debate the exact meaning of the word "foresee", and whether it allows for Spies to move to MotoGP earlier than 2011 - half the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seems to be settled, as Colin Edwards looks certain to keep his seat in the team, especially given the outstanding results he has posted this season. The fate of James Toseland, however, looks a good deal less certain, with team boss Herve Poncharal stopping short of expressing outright criticism of the British rider, but pointing out that Toseland's results have been disappointing, both for Toseland himself and for the team. It is widely accepted that Toseland is likely to remain in MotoGP - the BBC's multi-year multi-million dollar deal with series organizer Dorna would seem to demand that a British rider be in the series - but that does not mean that JT needs to stay at Tech 3.
Indeed, it seems as if that battle has already been fought, and Toseland has lost. The usually well-informed Spanish website Motocuatro.com is reporting that not Toseland, but Alex de Angelis will be riding for Monster Tech 3 Yamaha next year. The deal would be for a single season, with Yamaha taking a look at both Edwards and De Angelis at the end of 2010, to decide who will make way for Ben Spies. De Angelis' run of excellent results since the Sachsenring are believed to have persuaded Yamaha to have given the man from San Marino a second chance to prove himself, and given the proven nature of the satellite Yamaha M1, that should be a challenge De Angelis is up to.
Yesterday, Dorna released a list of engines presented to MotoGP's Technical Director Mike Webb to be officially sealed. The seals are placed to comply with the engine limit which comes into effect at Brno, which stipulates that each rider is only allowed to use 5 engines until the end of the season. The teams only needed to submit 1, or at most 2 engines to be sealed before practice started, but instead most submitted 3 or even more. That demands some kind of explanation, and so we decided to take a closer look at the numbers.
Here's the full list:
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda Team||3|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Repsol Honda Team||3|
|5||Colin Edwards||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||3|
|7||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||2|
|14||Randy de Puniet||LCR Honda MotoGP||3|
|15||Alex de Angelis||San Carlo Honda Gresini||3|
|24||Toni Elias||San Carlo Honda Gresini||2|
|27||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro Team||4|
|33||Marco Melandri||Hayate Racing Team||3|
|36||Mika Kallio||Pramac Racing||3|
|41||Gabor Talmacsi||Scot Racing Team MotoGP||2|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha Team||3|
|52||James Toseland||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||3|
|65||Loris Capirossi||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||2|
|69||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Marlboro Team||4|
|88||Niccolo Canepa||Pramac Racing||3|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha Team||3|
* There are also 2 spare Suzuki engines not yet assigned to a rider
The first thing to note is that Casey Stoner's absence generates a small complication. Casey Stoner has had 4 engines sealed, and Mika Kallio has had 3 engines sealed. But Kallio is riding the factory Marlboro Ducati bike this weekend, so whose engines is he using?
In the final chapter of our summer break round up of the MotoGP season, we turn towards the unknown. After our discussions of the things we know for sure, and the things which are extremely probable, we stray from the path of solid research, head down the trail of the likely, making a left turn into the tangled brush and undergrowth of the possible and onwards to wishful thinking and the frankly bizarre. Once past the certain and the obvious, the options become more open, more varied and more improbable. Whereas you could have safely placed a small wager on the rider movements discussed yesterday, the options presented below are a pretty good way of losing your money.
We shall start our journey with the most likely scenarios, and descend into the unknown from there. Of the riders we have not yet discussed, Randy de Puniet has the best chance of securing a decent ride for next year. Since his switch to the spec Bridgestone tires, the Frenchman has been transformed from the man most likely to crash to a podium hero at Donington, and his stock has risen enormously.
De Puniet is currently in negotiations with his current team boss Lucio Cecchinello about signing for LCR Honda again for next year, but the Frenchman's main demand is not money but equipment. De Puniet wants a more competitive bike, and though Cecchinello would dearly like to oblige, that depends both on the team's ability to raise the necessary funds and HRC's willingness to supply a better bike.
And so de Puniet is also talking to - who else? - Tech 3's Herve Poncharal. At Tech 3 the Frenchman would be assured of excellent support and his best shot at more regular podium appearances. The only point of contention would be money, and unless de Puniet can bring extra sponsorship dollars to the Tech 3 team, his salary demands would have to remain modest.
There's only so many compact flash cards that a photographer can carry, and the number of photos they can process is even fewer. So for now, here are the last of Scott Jones' Fab Photos frmm Germany
If you enjoyed the previous instalments of photos from the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, you'll love the final collection from Scott Jones. If you want more after that, you'll have to wait until Donington, like the rest of us.
Yet more photos from Scott Jones, this time of the rain-soaked qualifying session. The conditions may have been horrific, but this did not deter either our intrepid photographer or the subjects he was shooting.
The first batch of images are in from Scott Jones, here at the Sachsenring, and once again, they are real gems. There'll be plenty more to come over the next few days.